Christopher Ondaatje on Leonard Woolf

Writer Christopher Ondaatje, born in Sri Lanka, followed in the footsteps of Leonard Woolf for his book Woolf in Ceylon. Woolf’s memoir Growing is utterly fascinating as a study of colonial life and as an insight into the people of Ceylon at the peak of Britain’s empire. A review of Ondaatje’s book adds:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ondaatje focuses much of his critical attention on the second volume of Woolf’s acclaimed autobiography, Growing – the instalment that deals specifically with the Ceylon years. Much of the attraction of Woolf’s five-volume autobiography is his lucid and candid self-examination. Sometimes this can border on the downright odd (as when, for example, he ponders humankind’s relationship with its companion animals), but for the most part he is simply and elegantly matter-of-fact (and often very funny). His recollections of his youthful sexual promiscuity are only sensational in as much as they are an intellectual exercise in candour. He even reproduces a letter to his closest friend Lytton Strachey, in which he reveals how he lost his virginity to a Burgher girl in Jaffna.

Ondaatje’s homage to Woolf will be a suitable reading companion to Woolf’s memoir.

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